artwork by malcolm mcclinton; copyright hangedman studios; used with permission; see geocities.com/Area51/Labyrinth/8339/index.html for more
In order for a rogue/sneak attack character to get the most out of his class choice, he must, from time to time attack someone from behind, usually before they can act. This is a no-brainer. It's the core ability of the class in combat. However, if initiative is the enemy of gaming that I have claimed it is, we need a surrogate for the present sneak attack; something that allows GMs and PCs to augment game play without ruining one of the best classes in the game.
Method 1: A rogue always deals additional damage equal to his Dexterity bonus.
Method 2: A rogue always deals additional damage equal to his Wisdom bonus. Hey look. We found another use for Wisdom.
Method 3: A rogue always deals additional damage equal to his Intelligence bonus. Hey look. We found another use for Intelligence.
Method 4: A rogue always deals additional damage equal to his level, so long as he is using a Small weapon.
Method 5: A rogue can take the Sneak Attack skill (more on this in the skills chapter).
Method 6: Removing the flat-footed component from the game, the rogue can now wait and strike. By "aiming" for a number of rounds equal to 1d6 minus the Wisdom bonus of the PC, the rogue can sneak attack any creature that could normally be hit with a sneak attack. Whether the opponent is aware of the rogue or not. This slightly nerfs the ability, but takes away the deadliness of sneak attack at higher levels. The rogue should add his Wisdom and Intelligence bonuses to the attack roll.
Method 7: Sneak attacks are resolved as normal attacks, but in place of the BAB + Str bonus of the rogue, he uses his level + Wis bonus as his BAB, but the natural AC of the target is increased by +5 due to the difficult nature of the strike. A miss is a miss.
Method 8: Sneak attacks no longer deal normal damage. Instead, they deal damage per the new rogue class in the upcoming chapter.
Method 9: Rogues determine with type of sneak attack damage they wish to do, per the optional rules in the upcoming chapter mentioned above.
Method 10: Replace rogues with bards (just kidding).
PCs that kill a rogue adversary (of any level) only gain 1/2 XP for the encounter, if the opponent never used his sneak attack ability.
Magic is tricky business in RPGs. In order for it to be used by control-freak gamers, each spell must be defined with parameters and rules... which, essentially robs it of any chance to be "magical." I can't solve that right now, but bear in mind it's a topic near and dear to my heart and I have some solutions, none of which people are going to like.
As it plays out in fantasy games, higher level spells do nothing more than blow things up better. Non-damage dealing utilitarian spells should be in a separate class, and each level should have more and more of them, creating MORE options, not narrowing your choices.
This goes for just about every game I can think of. But, of course, DnD suffers greatly and seems as topical as anything else written on this site.
At first and second level, the options left to transmutation spells total around two dozen. At 9th level, there are three. THREE! And only one (time stop) is worth taking.
Essentially, all 17th-level transmutation specialists are the same?!? They can all stop time... and then go ethereal (if such a thing exists in your home brew campaign)... and do, what exactly?!?!?
Instead of wizards developing a style all their own, becoming hermits that study and develop spellbooks of unique and amazing power... they've become clones of one another... boring old carbon copies.
If every archmage you talk to knows the same 10 high-level spells... what's the arcane secret that alters the course of mankind?
Well. I have two solutions. One, I can’t reveal because it may eventually get printed in a book. Sorry. The second is the concept of dead magic, which we’ll be adding to the world of Raavnia in a few months. Control freaks will NOT like it.
But anyone interested in returning an air of mystery to spellcasting may find it an enjoyable alternative.
Kevin Wilson once taught me the following:
Spells that stop me (PC) from acting or that limit my actions
are a good way to get the DM punched in the head.
are a good way to get the DM punched in the head.
While Kevin's views were extreme, he opened my eyes to the most fundamentally stupid spell in gaming... hold person... a spell the completely halts action and prevents game play... the entire point of showing up and hanging out in the first place. They might as well have called the spell go home. And it's only second level! Casting this spell is control-freak measures on an impossible scale and it needs to go away.
When the DM uses this tactic he's telling the player, "I don't want your character involved."
When the PC uses this tactic he's telling the DM, "I don't want to think about this encounter. Just stop moving, okay."
It has one function and it needs to die. Along with hold person, spells like entangle, web, and dominate also need to go. Slow can stay. It penalizes without stopping action. It's okay to limit options, it is not okay to deny them, altogether.
Tanglefoot bags are gone too.
I don't have a list of every spell in front of my that paralyzes, but they all need to go. Ghoul paralytic touches also need to go, along with the elven immunity to them.
Instead, a ghoul now does 1 point of Dexterity damage in addition to normal damage, no save. Ghasts do 1d3 points.
Grease is a keystone cop movie gone wrong. Thematically, it ruins the game and/or turns every fight into the same inane series of prat-falls. It’s out too.
And if you want to create a range of interesting low-level wizards, get rid of magic missle, sleep, summon monster (any) and m’s acid arrow. Make wizards and sorcerers think for a change. Check out what they take instead, you’ll be amazed.
Before we renovate everything, we need to establish the basics, which means determining what will be the framework of magic (not the colleges, but the function). Spell functions fall into one of six categories:
Bump spells: Bless, magic vestment
Damage-dealing spells: Duh
Divination spells: Augury, locate object
Penalty spells: Doom, enervation
Summon: The summon monster stuff (which is just a lot of unfun bookkeeping)
Utility spells: Jump, mount, spider climb
Each level, there should be an equal number of each type to choose from. But instead, there are fewer and fewer utility and divination spells at higher levels. A look at the 4th level divination spells tells us, the DnD crew didn't do a fair job of thinking about what might be useful. Being able to scry that the villain is taking a bath does not seem as useful as wall of fire.
So, that means we need new spells, with new ranges of power.
This will have to happen in another chapter and will take some time to develop.
In the mean time, demand that your spellcasters learn a spell from each catagory, before they can learn a duplicate of the same type. There doesn't need to be an explanation for it, just make it a rule. It will increase game play and interest, without resorting to fireball every time someone reaches 3rd level.
I also believe that the summon category needs complete reworking, which we'll also develop, later. But in the meantime, summon monster spells should be removed, but the remaining conjuration spells can stay.
artwork by malcolm mcclinton; copyright alderac entertainment group; see geocities.com/Area51/Labyrinth/8339/index.html for more
Lastly, we need a third spell-caster class, which will get some attention later as well. While sorceror and wizard provide the basic function of birth-power vs. studied-power, it does not address the more important fundementals of interesting specialists. The specialist system is a bit of a joke, because there's only 4 of the 8 worth taking, anyway.
However, I intend to showcase a new vein of specialists, which will replace the wizard in time.
Enough for now.